Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Peace Olympics vs. Trump's War Games: What you can do to avert a war with N. Korea

Koreans sing "Imagine" and join together to light the Olympic Torch
Our campaign to avert war with North Korea began this month with a vigil in front of the Korean Consulate General on Wilshire Boulevard, just as the "Peace Olympics" began. That's the apt name that Korea and and the Olympic committee gave to this year's Olympics; and if you didn't see the opening, I strongly recommend that you check it out. The other high point was watching the North and South Koreans come together to light the Olympic torch. It felt as if the whole world had come together at this point.
The whole world minus the US. VP Pence arrived at the Games like the Grinch who stole Christmas, bringing with him the father of the young man who was held in a North Korean prison and died when he returned. This was a terrible tragedy, but the United States has no moral high ground from which to criticize North Korea: innocent immigrants held in detention in US prisons are sexually abused and die in detention all the time, and Guantanamo and Abu Graib remain a stain on America's international reputation. Pence's behavior was considered so rude he has been snubbed by his Korean hosts.
The  LA Times noted that the Olympics Games and suggested that it might even provide Pence with a chance to show some courtesy towards the sister of North Korean's leader:
Some are calling the Winter Games that open Friday in South Korea the "Peace Olympics." They point to several hopeful signs, including the presence at the Games of Kim Jong Un's sister and the fact that North and South Korean athletes will be marching at the opening ceremonies under a common "unification flag." (Their women's hockey teams will join forces for the Games as well.) There is even speculation that Vice President Mike Pence might strike up a conversation with a representative of the leader President Trump has called "Little Rocket Man."

While Pence didn't rise to this occasion--he sat glumly when everyone stood up and cheered when North and South Korea lit the Olympic torch together--this is an opportunity for us to write a letter to the LA Times's editorial. The goal of FCNL campaign to avert war with North Korea for  February isto publish as many media pieces as possible during this time when Korea is the the world's spot light. Here's a sample letter in response to LA Times Editorial “Korea’s Peace Olympics” (Friday, Feb 2).
As your editorial makes clear, and as anyone watching the inspiring opening of the Olympics can see, Koreans have a profound yearning for peace and reunification. Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s incoherent policies and provocative behavior have greatly increased the risk of a nuclear war, according to the Atomic Scientists. That’s why we need to urge our elected officials to support bills that would bar the President from launching a conventional or nuclear first-strike against North Korea without Congressional authorization. So far, Representatives Chu and Waters support the House version of this bill, along with 63 others. Now is the time to contact your elected officials and let them know you don’t want Trump to start a conventional war in Korea that would kill up to 300,000 people in the first few days of fighting, according to the Congressional Research Service. Our unstable President needs to be reined in.

To contact the Times, google “submit letter to the LA Times” or  go to
To submit to the Pasadena Star News, email ;,

You can also take part in one of the following lobby visits that we have scheduled.

Upcoming lobby visits:

Fri. Feb 16: Judy Chu’s aide at 2:30 pm.
Feb 20-21: Gomez, time uncertain
Thurs. March 1: Schiff, 2 pm.
March 2: Feinstein, 1 pm. Meet with her aide,

Below are some recommended readings from FCNL. To learn more, go to

ICUJP vigil in front of Korean consulate on Wilshire took place on the first day of the Olympics

Senators Sound Alarm Over South Korea Ambassador Vacancy, Warn Of Significant Risk Of Preemptive Strike Against North Korea

Heinrich leads group of 18 senators questioning Dr. Victor Cha’s removal from consideration to be Ambassador; Raises concerns over “bloody nose” strategy against North Korea

Monday, February 5, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. -  Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, led a group of 18 Senators, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.), expressing serious concerns over the continued absence of a U.S. Ambassador to South Korea and asked for justification on the reported removal from consideration of a highly qualified candidate, Dr. Victor Cha, for that position. The senators also warned against the potential consequences of a preemptive military strike on North Korea and the risks of miscalculation and retaliation.
In a letter to President Trump, the senators emphasized the urgent need for diplomatic leadership, stating, “The challenge posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs is perhaps the most significant foreign policy challenge our nation has faced in decades. It is therefore shocking that the Administration – a full year into its term – has yet to formally nominate someone to be the ambassador, which is the highest-ranking U.S. government official in South Korea. It is equally disturbing that the individual being considered for this position, Dr. Victor Cha, who has extensive qualifications and experience, has been removed from consideration after receiving Agrément from South Korea.”
The senators outlined Dr. Cha’s extensive vetting and qualifications and raised concern with reports that the reason for Dr. Cha’s removal was his disagreement with a “bloody nose” strategy under consideration by the White House, and called for the Administration to provide clear reasoning and justification for his removal from consideration.
“Like many, we are deeply concerned about the potential consequences of a preemptive military strike on North Korea and the risks of miscalculation and retaliation. Ultimately, it is an enormous gamble to believe that a particular type of limited, preemptive strike will not be met with an escalatory response from Kim Jong Un and neither the United States nor our allies should take that step lightly,” continued the senators. 
In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on North Korea on January 30, 2018, each of the expert witnesses believed that such a “bloody nose” strategy carried extreme risks. Last month, Senator Heinrich sent a letter to Secretary of Defense James Mattis expressing his deep concerns regarding the potential consequences of a preemptive military strike on North Korea and the risks of miscalculation and retaliation.
On January 30th, Dr. Victor Cha, posted an Op-Ed in the Washington Post arguing that “Giving North Korea a ‘bloody nose’ carries a huge risk to Americans.”
The letter was signed by U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Christopher Coons (D-Del.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward Markey (D-Mass.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Jeffrey Merkley (D-Ore.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.).   
A copy of letter is available here and below. 

President Donald Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, D.C. 20500 

Dear President Trump: 
We write to express our serious concerns regarding the continued absence of a U.S. Ambassador to South Korea and the reported removal from consideration of a highly qualified candidate, Dr. Victor Cha, for that position. We ask that you provide clear reasoning and justification for his removal from consideration.
The challenge posed by North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs is perhaps the most significant foreign policy challenge our nation has faced in decades. It is therefore shocking that the Administration – a full year into its term – has yet to formally nominate someone to be the ambassador, which is the highest-ranking U.S. government official in South Korea. It is equally disturbing that the individual being considered for this position, Dr. Victor Cha, who has extensive qualifications and experience, has been removed from consideration after receiving Agrément from South Korea.
We may or may not agree with Dr. Cha on every issue, and of course an administration is entitled to the nominees of its choosing, but it is our understanding that the White House conducted lengthy vetting, including security and financial background checks on Dr. Cha and that the Administration had formally notified Seoul of its intent to nominate Dr. Cha. According to reports, South Korean officials quickly approved Dr. Cha through its formal process and South Koreans lauded his potential nomination.
While we reserve our rights to provide advice and consent on ambassadorial nominations, it is our understanding that he is an eminently qualified individual to serve at a senior level in the U.S. Government. As you know, Dr. Cha previously served as director for Asian affairs on the National Security Council under the George W. Bush administration. Dr. Cha also served as the Deputy Head of Delegation for the United States at the Six Party Talks in Beijing. Currently, Dr. Cha is the Director of Asian Studies in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and is also a Senior Adviser and Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Despite Dr. Cha’s qualifications, it is being reported that Administration officials are asserting that the removal of Dr. Cha from consideration was based on a flag that was raised only after the lengthy background checks and other vetting that, typically, an individual under consideration for nomination undergoes prior to their name being submitted for the formal diplomatic process of Agrément. As a result, we respectfully request that you provide the justification for his removal from consideration.
According to some media reports, the real reason for Dr. Cha’s removal was his disagreement with a “bloody nose” strategy under consideration by the White House. Like many, we are deeply concerned about the potential consequences of a preemptive military strike on North Korea and the risks of miscalculation and retaliation. Ultimately, it is an enormous gamble to believe that a particular type of limited, preemptive strike will not be met with an escalatory response from Kim Jong Un and neither the United States nor our allies should take that step lightly. In a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on North Korea on January 30th, 2018, each of the expert witnesses believed that such a “bloody nose” strategy carried extreme risks. Moreover, without congressional authorization a preventative or preemptive U.S. military strike would lack either a Constitutional basis or legal authority.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula are as high as they have ever been, and the Olympics are fast approaching. While we must always be ready to respond with decisive action to a North Korean provocation, it would be extremely irresponsible to instigate military conflict prior to exhausting every diplomatic option.
We request your immediate attention to ensure the United States has in place its highest-ranking diplomat to serve as Ambassador to South Korea. We urge you to nominate a qualified individual for this critical position as soon as possible. 

Victor Cha: Giving North Korea a ‘bloody nose’ carries a huge risk to Americans

Victor Cha January 30

Victor Cha is a professor at Georgetown University and senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

North Korea, if not stopped, will build an arsenal with multiple nuclear missiles meant to threaten the U.S. homeland and blackmail us into abandoning our allies in Asia. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un will sell these weapons to state and nonstate actors, and he will inspire other rogue actors who want to undermine the U.S.-backed postwar order. These are real and unprecedented threats. But the answer is not, as some Trump administration officials have suggested, a preventive military strike. Instead, there is a forceful military option available that can address the threat without escalating into a war that would likely kill tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of Americans.
When I was under consideration for a position in this administration, I shared some of these views.
Japan’s capital practiced its first North Korean missile evacuation drill on Jan. 22. Hundreds of people participated in the drill. (Reuters)
Some may argue that U.S. casualties and even a wider war on the Korean Peninsula are risks worth taking, given what is at stake. But a strike (even a large one) would only delay North Korea’s missile-building and nuclear programs, which are buried in deep, unknown places impenetrable to bunker-busting bombs. A strike also would not stem the threat of proliferation but rather exacerbate it, turning what might be a North Korean moneymaking endeavor into a vengeful effort intended to equip other bad actors against us.
I empathize with the hope, espoused by some Trump officials, that a military strike would shock Pyongyang into appreciating U.S. strength, after years of inaction, and force the regime to the denuclearization negotiating table. I also hope that if North Korea did retaliate militarily, the United States could control the escalation ladder to minimize collateral damage and prevent a collapse of financial markets. In either event, the rationale is that a strike that demonstrates U.S. resolve to pursue “all options” is necessary to give the mercurial Kim a “bloody nose.” Otherwise he will remain undeterred in his nuclear ambitions.
Yet, there is a point at which hope must give in to logic. If we believe that Kim is undeterrable without such a strike, how can we also believe that a strike will deter him from responding in kind? And if Kim is unpredictable, impulsive and bordering on irrational, how can we control the escalation ladder, which is premised on an adversary’s rational understanding of signals and deterrence?
Some have argued the risks are still worth taking because it’s better that people die “over there” than “over here.” On any given day, there are 230,000 Americans in South Korea and 90,000 or so in Japan. Given that an evacuation of so many citizens would be virtually impossible under a rain of North Korean artillery and missiles (potentially laced with biochemical weapons), these Americans would most likely have to hunker down until the war was over.
While our population in Japan might be protected by U.S. missile defenses, the U.S. population in South Korea, let alone millions of South Koreans, has no similar active defenses against a barrage of North Korean artillery (aside from counterfire artillery). To be clear: The president would be putting at risk an American population the size of a medium-size U.S. city — Pittsburgh, say, or Cincinnati — on the assumption that a crazy and undeterrable dictator will be rationally cowed by a demonstration of U.S. kinetic power.
An alternative coercive strategy involves enhanced and sustained U.S., regional and global pressure on Pyongyang to denuclearize. This strategy is likely to deliver the same potential benefits as a limited strike, along with other advantages, without the self-destructive costs. There are four elements to this coercive strategy.
First, the Trump administration must continue to strengthen the coalition of U.N. member states it has mustered in its thus far highly successful sanctions campaign. and offers lessons for the Trump era
(Video: Erin Patrick O'Connor, Daron Taylor, Monica Hesse, Thomas LeGro/Photo: Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)
Second, the United States must significantly up-gun its alliances with Japan and South Korea with integrated missile defense, intelligence-sharing and anti-submarine warfare and strike capabilities to convey to North Korea that an attack on one is an attack on all.
Third, the United States must build a maritime coalition around North Korea involving rings of South Korean, Japanese and broader U.S. assets to intercept any nuclear missiles or technologies leaving the country. China and Russia should be prepared to face the consequences if they allow North Korean proliferation across their borders.
Lastly, the United States must continue to prepare military options. Force will be necessary to deal with North Korea if it attacks first, but not through a preventive strike that could start a nuclear war.
In the land of lousy options, no strategy is perfect, but some are better than others. This strategy gets us out of crisis-management mode. It constitutes decisive action, not previously attempted, by President Trump. And it demonstrates resolve to other bad actors that threats to the United States will be countered. Such a strategy would assuredly deplete Pyongyang’s hard currency, deter it from rash action, strengthen our alliances in Asia for the next generation and increase the costs to those who continue to subsidize Pyongyang.
A sustained and long-term competitive strategy such as this plays to U.S. strengths, exploits our adversary’s weaknesses and does not risk hundreds of thousands of American lives.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Pasadena faces a moral crisis: should city land be used to house homeless seniors or for commerce?

Waiting in the basement to present our views to the
City Council

On Monday, Feb 5, over 25 people showed up at the Pasadena City Council, calling for lower fees for ADUs ("granny flats") and for the city-owned property on the corner of Orange Grove Blvd and Fair Oaks to be used for permanent supportive housing for homeless seniors. On Sunday my wife Jill went to 11 churches and got over 127 signatures from people in this area supporting this position.  17  came to City Hall and pulled cards to speak, on behalf of this viewpoint, though fewer actually spoke because we were  placed at the end of the agenda and most left by 11 pm after waiting four and a half hours. The only persons who spoke against using this site for affordable housing for homeless seniors was Mustang Sally (an eccentric and perhaps mentally ill woman who hates immigrants and loves soldiers and Donald Trump) and Councilmember Gordo. Gordo wanted the City to develop a plan to use this property for commercial development. Councilmember McAustin strongly disagreed. The  vote was tabled until the next Council meeting.

A burning moral question facing the City Council is: What is more important, commercial development or the lives of our homeless seniors? 

This is not just a question of economics, it is a life-and-death question for many of our city's most vulerable residents. That’s a question I hope that City Council members will take seriously and I hope prayerfully (many are people of faith who attend church and synagogue). 

First, I want to commend the City Council for finally taking action on the Heritage Square property after letting it be virtually unused for 15 years. I could ask why the City Council has waited so long to do something about this vital piece of land, but I don’t want to cast blame. I will say that it is the responsibility of the City Council to make sure that City property is used in the best interests of the whole community. 

McAustin helping to build housing for low-income people
on Women's Construction Day
I want to commend Margaret McAustin, a City Council member from District 5 who supports permanent supportive housing such as the one being proposed and also supported "Marv's Place (she is shown here in a Women's Construction Day house build). I also commend our outstanding Housing Director Bill Huang for doing an excellent job in providing nine options for the use of this land, as requested by Council, and recommending permanent supportive housing for seniors as the best and most feasible option. Bill made it clear that we have a golden opportunity to create 69 units of   This would meet a huge need in our city.
Marv's place is a beautiful award-winning example of permanent
supportive housing for homeless families which was built in part thanks
to Margaret McAustin;s support. Other City Councilmembers
are reluctant to allow housing for the homeless in their districts.
permanent supportive housing for homeless seniors, of whom there are approximately 80 living on the streets of our city. This housing will no doubt save the lives of this vulnerable population, most of whom are destined to die on the streets if they are not housed. He also said it might be possible to include up to 49% affordable housing for people who are very low income but not homeless, though to be competitive, we need to make as much of this property for homeless people as possible.

Mr Gordo wants this area to be developed as a commercial site, even though it would mean a loss of HUD funding as well as the loss of an opportunity to do what the community wants and needs. He says that we already have "too much" affordable housing in this area, thereby violating a city housing philosophy of not “saturating” one area with "too much" affordable housing ("too much" is a subjective term, since no hard-and-fast policies or rules have been set).  It should be pointed out that the other three corners of this intersection are used for commercial purposes, and Orange Grove from Los Robles to Lincoln is almost all commercial. Yet Mr. Gordo isn't concerned about "a saturation" of commercial properties. 

As usual, Mr. Gordo claims that he supports affordable housing while proposing policies that thwart its construction. If he is sincere, I  urge him to find land either in his own district or persuade Council members in other districts, to provide land for permanent affordable housing. As he knows only too well, this is a "hard sell."

Victor Gordo (right) owns and profits from ADUs but has proposed high fees
and an "affordability covenant" that would make it nearly impossible for others
to afford building them. He also prefers commercial development rather
than housing for homeless seniors, who will die on the street without it. 
I also wonder why Mr. Gordo (District 5) feels he knows best what  District 3 needs, despite what the residents there say they want and need. This is Mr. Kennedy's district; and as I mentioned, residents have made it clear they want housing for homeless seniors. So apparently, does Councilman Kennedy.

While I believe that avoiding “saturation” is good housing philosophy, it is not a Divine Mandate. In this case, there is a higher moral principle involved, which is why churches and people of conscience support using the land for homeless seniors.

Our religious tradition teaches us that when we can have the power to do good or avoid evil, and we fail to do so, we are responsible for the outcome. If we have the power to create affordable housing for homeless seniors, and fail to do, we are morally responsible for what happens to these seniors, including their deaths.

Each year homeless seniors die on the streets of Pasadena. That’s a sad fact. All Saints Church has an annual memorial service for homeless people who have died in our city, and it’s very moving. I encourage Council members to go to this service, which is very inspiring and attracts people of many faiths.  It is hard to imagine anything more tragic than dying like a dog on the streets of our city. When you go to the All Saints service, you have a chance to meet and get know our homeless residents and it will open your heart and mind.

Fortunately, we have the power to do something about this tragedy. We can build this housing on this site, as many homeless advocates recommended. This is not just good policy, it is also our moral responsibility.

If the Council decides that the Heritage Square location is better suited for commercial development, then it has a moral responsibility to insure that somewhere else in the city 69 units of permanent affordable housing are built for homeless people. It might be also be possible to develop this corner with mixed use, including some commercial use, but we still have a responsibility to produce 69 units of affordable housing for the homeless at this site or somewhere else in the city. There is land available in other areas, but so far City Council members have been unwilling to allow this land to be used for permanent supportive housing for homeless people due to NIMBYISM. Council member McAustin is a notable exception and she deserves commendation. I strongly feel that unless the Council figures out how to create 69 units of housing for the homeless, this property should not be used for commercial purposes.

It is immoral to build to build a shoe store or a mini mart when we could have built housing for homeless seniors on the same site. Human life is far more precious than profit.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Advocacy Team Visits office of Senator Harris: "Stop the President from Starting a War with North Korea!"

Left to right: Front row, Ruby, Yul Hur, Sue Park Hur, Jeehee Kim, Kit Bell. Back row: Hyun Hur, Grace Dyrness, Ed Fisher, Anthony Manousos,  Jackson Lind-Lebuffe, Roberta Medford, Christine, Grace, ? and Lynn. 

"Stop the President from having the power to launch a preemptive war with North Korea." That was our message as we visited the office of Senator Kamala Harris. There we met with her aide Jackson Lind-Lebuff for nearly 40 minutes. We urged the Senator to support Federal - S 2047:A bill to bar the executive branch from using taxpayer money to launch a military strike against North Korea or introduce the Armed Forces into hostilities in North Korea unless Congress explicitly authorizes such actions.

Jackson had heard of S 200 (which prohibits the President from launching a preemptive nuclear strike) but not S 2047. He hadn't heard that the President was threatening a "bloody nose" attack on North Korea--attacking strategic sites with conventional weapons. See Bloody Nose Attack on North Korea

Jackson seemed very interested in learning about this bill, and an intern took notes. He is a very sympathetic listener and we appreciated his questions and responses. 

Advocacy is about relationship building as well as promoting specific legislation. ICUJP was one of the first groups to visit Harris' office after she was elected. I knowJackson from previous visits in which we had advocated for reducing the military budget and prison reform. This visit was special because of the size and diversity of the group.

Six different organizations were represented: Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) (Kit, Roberta, and myself), Reconciliasian (Hyun, Sue and Jeehee  and their kids); Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP) (Rubi, Grace, Ed and myself); Progressive Democrats and the Montrose Peace Vigil (Roberta) and Veterans for Peace (Ed). Some of us belonged to more than one organizations. That added to our effectiveness: we were very diverse, yet interlinked and working together as a team.

Prepping for our visit in front of the Courthouse

Each person offered important perspectives. Grace provided a faith viewpoint, stressing that each person is equally important and sacred. The Koreans shared person stories about their commitment to build bridges of understanding with North Korea, and how frustrated they are by Trump's travel ban.  
Ed Fisher shared the perspective of Veterans for Peace. He noted that any joint U.S. - South Korea war games (again planned for this spring, soon after the Olympics) would be a very serious and direct provocation to North Korea and should be blocked by Congress by means of forbidding the expenditure of any funds for it. He also mentioned his year of military service in the South Korean port of Inchon 57 years ago, very close to the heavily fortified border with North Korea. Since that time, South Korea has become a modern industrial society while North Korea remains relatively undeveloped and cut off from the international community -- mainly due to the United States' continuing paranoia -- maintained for 65 years -- about a military threat largely of its own making.  Roberta Medford noted that Progressive Democrats want candidates to support S   2047 and mentioned that Chu, Waters and other California Dems support the House version of this bill.
Listening to Jeehee share her perspective as a Korean American

We also shared our talking points (see below.)

We are now preparing for visits to the offices of Senator Feinstein and Reps Chu, Schiff and Gomez. We are also planning a letter and op ed writing campaign to coincide with the Korean Olympics coming up in February.

Our advocacy goals: to get our elected official to endorse these bills, to show that their constituents care, and to educate them about the complex situation in Korea. 

Another goal is to build a strong team of advocates and to train as many people as possible to become advocates. That's why I am pleased that we have so many different groups involved. Additionally, Sue and Hyun are teachers of peacemaking skills, going to churches and other groups to teach conflict resolution, etc. They can now add advocacy to their tool kit of peace making!

Avert War with North Korea: Support These Bills!

Federal - S 2047:A bill to bar the executive branch from using taxpayer money to launch a military strike against North Korea or introduce the Armed Forces into hostilities in North Korea unless Congress explicitly authorizes such actions or unless such actions are taken to rescue US personnel or repel a sudden attack on the United States or its allies.
Introduced October 31, 2017 by Sen Christopher Murphy (D-CT).

Federal - HR 4837: A bill to prohibit the introduction of the Armed Forces into hostilities in North Korea without a declaration of war or explicit statutory authorization, and for other purposes.
Introduced January 18, 2018

Highly recommended is this article by Dr. Martin Hart-Landsberg is Professor Emeritus of Economics at Lewis and Clark College, Portland, Oregon; Adjunct Researcher at the Institute for Social Sciences, Gyeongsang National University, South Korea; and a member of the Board of Directors of the Korea Policy Institute and the steering committee of the Alliance of Scholars Concerned About Korea

War Is Not the Answer. “A war in Korea today — without the use of nuclear weapons — would kill up to 300,000 people in the first few days of fighting, according to the Congressional Research Service. It would affect upwards of 25 million people on either side of the border, including at least 100,000 U.S. citizens. The full scale of destruction would be even larger, and nearly unthinkable, if nuclear weapons were used either by North Korea or the United States.
“And when it comes down to it, there is no military option that would solve the problems posed by North Korea.
“According to the Pentagon, securing all of the sites related to North Korea’s nuclear weapons program would require a full-scale ground invasion. This means thousands of American boots on the ground in another potentially long, bloody war of attrition on foreign soil. The consequences of a war on the Korean peninsula would range from humanitarian disaster to global economic instability to the collapse of our alliance structures.”-—Op Ed by Abigail Stowe-Thurston and Erin Connolly (FCNL Staff)
Nuclear scientists recently moved their Doomsday clock closer to midnight than it has been since 1953, largely because of tensions between North Korea and the US. The threat of war, either intentional or accidental, is very real.

It’s the job of Congress to stand up to President Trump.President Trump has the nuclear codes, but Congress alone may authorize war. Congress should pass legislation today reaffirming that the president may not start a war on the Korean Peninsula without explicit authorization from Congress. The Constitution demands it, and the American people deserve it. The Framers were not immature or short-sighted. They knew that war is dangerous, destructive, and corrosive. They wisely insisted that no one person should have the power to start a war. Their foresight is only more relevant today, when the cannon and the sail have given way to the thermonuclear warhead and the intercontinental ballistic missile.” Anthony Weir (FCNL)

Peace negotiations are possible and needed. Foreign policy expert Hart-Landsberg: “We don’t have to go down this road [to war]—we have another option—but it is one that the U.S. government is unwilling to consider, much less discuss. That option is for the U.S. to accept North Korean offers of direct negotiations between the two countries, with all issues on the table.”

North Korea is reaching out to South Korea to deescalate tensions, as evidenced by their recent efforts to engage in Olympic Game diplomacy (“Olympic games rather than war games”). This is not a time to threaten war, but to encourage negotiations. If Congress passes this bill, it will send a strong signal to North Korea that the US is serious about negotiations.

Dispelling myths about North Korea (based on an article by Dr. Martin Hart-Landsberg)

Most Americans don’t know much about Korea and what we think we know is mostly untrue. We need to educate ourselves. Time permitting, let’s dispel myths and share some of these important facts.
Hart-Landsberg writes: “U.S. government and media dismiss this option [of negotiations] as out of hand—we are told that (1) the North is a hermit kingdom and seeks only isolation, (2) the country is ruled by crazy people hell bent on war, and (3) the North Korean leadership cannot be trusted to follow through on its promises. But none of this is true.
North Korea is not a “hermit kingdom,” it is willing to negotiate: According to Hart-Landsberg, “If being a hermit kingdom means never wanting to negotiate, then North Korea is not a hermit kingdom. North Korea has been asking for direct talks with the United States since the early 1990s. The reason is simple: this is when the U.S.SR ended and Russia and the former Soviet bloc countries in central Europe moved to adopt capitalism. The North was dependent on trade with these countries and their reorientation left the North Korean economy isolated and in crisis.
“The North Korean leadership decided that they had to break out of this isolation and connect the North Korean economy to the global economy, and this required normalization of relations with the United States. Since then, they have repeatedly asked for unconditional direct talks with the U.S. in hopes of securing an end to the Korean War and a peace treaty as a first step towards their desired normalization of relations, but have been repeatedly rebuffed. The U.S. has always put preconditions on those talks, preconditions that always change whenever the North has taken steps to meet them.
“The North has also tried to join the IMF and World Bank, but the U.S. and Japan have blocked its membership. The North has also tried to set up free trade zones to attract foreign investment, but the U.S. and Japan have worked to block that investment.
So, it is not the North that is refusing to talk or broaden its engagement with the global economy; it is the U.S. that seeks to keep North Korea isolated.”
North Korea is not an outrageously militaristic country: According to Hart-Landsberg, “ N. Korea spends considerably less on it military than does South Korea: the media portray North Korea as pursuing an out of control militarism that is the main cause of the current dangerous situation. But it is important to recognize that South Korea has outspent North Korea on military spending every year since 1976. International agencies currently estimate that North Korean annual military spending is $4 billion while South Korean annual military spending is $40 billion. And then we have to add the U.S. military build-up. North Korea does spend a high percentage of its budget on the military, but that is because it has no reliable military ally and a weak economy. However, it has largely responded to South Korean and U.S. militarism and threats, not driven them. As for the development of a nuclear weapons program: it was the U.S. that brought nuclear weapons to the Korean peninsula. It did so in 1958 in violation of the Korean War armistice and threatened North Korea with nuclear attack years before the North even sought to develop nuclear weapons.”
North Korea has been a more reliable negotiating partner than the U.S.. Dr. Hart-Landsberg shows that it is usually the US, not North Korea, that has reneged on agreements. Furthermore, North Korea’s nuclear program is largely for defensive purposes, to protect the North and to bring the US to the negotiating table. “The North has tested a nuclear weapon 5 times: 2006, 2009, 2013, and twice in 2016. Critically, North Korean tests have largely been conducted in an effort to pull the U.S. into negotiations or fulfill past promises. And the country has made numerous offers to halt its testing and even freeze its nuclear weapons program, if only the U.S. would agree to talks.”
This is a good time to negotiate: Hart-Landsberg writes: “The outcome of the recent presidential election in South Korea might open possibilities to force a change in U.S. policy. Moon Jae-in, the winner, has repudiated the hard-line policies of his impeached predecessor Park Guen-Hye, and declared his commitment to re-engage with the North. The U.S. government was not happy about his victory, but it cannot easily ignore Moon’s call for a change in South Korean policy towards North Korea, especially since U.S. actions against the North are usually presented as necessary to protect South Korea. Thus, if Moon follows through on his promises, the U.S. may well be forced to moderate its own policy towards the North. What is clear is that we in the U.S. have a responsibility to become better educated about U.S. policy towards both Koreas, to support popular movements in South Korea that seek peaceful relations with North Korea and progress towards reunification, and to work for a U.S. policy that promotes the demilitarization and normalization of U.S.-North Korean relations.”

That’s why we need to support bills that reject war and make diplomacy our priority.